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Academic Requirements

Current HASTS students should refer to the HASTS Student Handbook for more detailed information about the below requirements and other important program information. Please see the Academic Administrator if you do not have a copy of the Student Handbook.

Subjects Required

21H.991J Theories and Methods in the Study of History
STS.250J/21A.859J Social Theory and Analysis
STS.260 Introduction to Science, Technology, and Society

Students will typically take the three core classes in their first year of study.

Recommended Subjects

21A.809 Designing Empirical Research in the Social Sciences
21A.819 Qualitative Research Methods

Ideally, 21A.819 is taken in the fall of the second year and 21A.809 is taken in spring of the second year.

Remaining Course Work

Five to six other courses to be chosen in consultation with advisor; these should fit into a coherent course of study. Or, if a student in consultation with their advisor has elected not to take one or both of the methods classes, 1-2 additional electives must be taken to complete a total of 10 courses.

First Year Paper
The first-year paper comes out of one of the subjects taken during the student's first year in the Program. The paper should be roughly 20-25 pages and demonstrate the student's ability to write in a clear, organized, polished fashion and to develop a sustained argument, marshalling appropriate evidence and literature. This paper, as with later required writing in the Program, may not be co-authored.

Second Year Paper
The second-year paper should be a substantial research paper of publishable quality. Students should write the second-year paper in consultation with their advisor. It should not be a revision of the first-year paper.

Language Requirement
In order to satisfy the HASTS language requirement, students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of one language other than their native language. For international students whose native language is not English, English can be used to fulfill this requirement.

General Examinations
Students should plan to take their general examination sometime during their third year, ideally by January. The examination has both a written and oral component.

The written component of the general examination consists of three parts:

Field 1: Primary field to be read with the main advisor (e.g., the history of modern biology; the social study of information technologies).  This exam ordinarily anticipates the area of the student's doctoral dissertation. 

Field 2: Secondary field which contextualizes or broadens a field of history or the social sciences. This examination probes the student's mastery of a field of history (e.g., Imperial Russian and Soviet history) or a field of one of the social sciences (e.g., theory and method in the study of culture).

Field 3: Students prepare by reading from the MIT HASTS Common Exam List.  This list encompasses the areas of social, historical, and cultural perspectives on science and technology. This field can be taken with any faculty member within the HASTS program.

The written exams are followed by an oral exam, usually about two hours in length.

Research Grant/Fellowship Proposal
In conjunction with preparation of the dissertation proposal, students should prepare at least one proposal for dissertation research funding from outside MIT. Although we do not expect all students to obtain outside funding for their research, we expect all students to submit proposals because grant writing is an important learning experience for anyone going on to a career in academia, and can be particularly relevant while developing a dissertation proposal.

Dissertation Proposal and Proposal Presentation
Ordinarily students should complete their dissertation proposal within a term of their completion of general exams were taken. The proposal should be between ten and twenty pages long and accomplish three goals: introduce the dissertation topic, explain briefly the scholarly significance of the topic (including a brief review of the relevant literature), and indicate a general plan of work.

The Academic Administrator will schedule a dissertation proposal presentation day near the end of each semester during which students will orally present the proposal to HASTS faculty members and students. The presentation should be fifteen minutes in length and will be followed by questions and comments from the audience. This presentation provides an opportunity for feedback from HASTS faculty and students and it formalizes the submission of the dissertation proposal.

Dissertation Presentation
Once the final draft of the dissertation has been accepted by the student's dissertation committee, the student must hold a presentation. The dissertation presentation is an open meeting consisting of a twenty-minute summary of the dissertation by the student, followed by questions from the student’s committee and the audience.

The Office of the Dean for Graduate Education lists Institute requirements for thesis completion at MIT.

Timeline and Course Loads
Ordinarily, all coursework is completed in four to six semesters. Pursuit of a graduate degree at MIT on a part-time basis is not permitted, and HASTS students are required to take a full course load in order to remain eligible for financial aid. International students are required to consistently register fully and within the deadlines, in order to maintain their legal visa status. A full course load is usually defined as three subjects (36 units) per semester, although students who are working as Teaching Assistants may count that towards 12 units in that semester.

Required Element

First-Year Paper

July 1 after 1st Year

Selection of Advisor

July 1 after 1st Year

Second-Year Paper

August 15 after 2nd Year

Language Requirement

May 31 of 2nd Year
(or before scheduling of general exams, if taken earlier)

General Examinations

May 31 of 3rd Year

Research Grant Proposal

August 15 after 3rd Year

Dissertation Proposal & Proposal Presentation

Proposal: Reg Day of 4th Year;
Presentation: Either departmental presentation day in 3rd Year or Fall semester of 4th Year


Target completion date: End of 5th Year